London, Charing Cross Road, entrance to the Leaky Cauldron Pub
It had been more than four solid months since Benjamin opened his Hogwarts letter. Ever since that fateful day, he had never bothered to remove it from his mind.
He was going to Hogwarts!
Now over four months into his new age, he'd grown a full three inches taller and sprouted some short tufts of hair behind his ears. The sudden growth spurt even surprised him.
Right now, Benjamin stood leaning with his back against a brick wall, skeptically turning the diamond necklace over and over in his paws. Its true purpose and whatever magical properties it possessed remained indiscernible to him. He wore it on the silver chain around his neck, wondering if perhaps it too held some secret.
Firiti did say there was magic inside it, placed personally by Aunt Varissa herself. But it was a special kind of secret that only the nephew was meant to discover.
One day, that power would reveal itself.
Colton's Remembrall proved valuable. For a solid week, Benjamin almost completely forgot about his art project on the solar system. He'd enter his bedroom every night and idly pick up the Remembrall from his bedside table. It instantly turned red in his paw, stumping him for a couple of minutes. Then he'd climb into bed and fall straight asleep.
That week passed. Benjamin eventually finished his drawing of the solar system – for the most part, all thanks due to the Remembrall. Using the new colored pencils from his parents, he'd colored in the planets and the fringes of the Kuiper Belt. Yet the dark sky remained starless and devoid of constellations. Although its artist used the astronomy journals for reference, the illustration still missed several of even the lesser important star topologies.
Was it a magical sign meant to be heeded?
He'd read Magical Theory cover to cover at least half a dozen times. There was always something new to discover with every new read. Of course, with numerous readings came numerous questions. Dallee, an angel of endless patience and a love of teaching, always graciously answered every single question that her brother asked. The hours of rereading and tutoring taught Benjamin much about the basics of magic, fueling his youthful enthusiasm and making him even more excited about going to Hogwarts.
He shook himself back to reality and looked up to see his older sister stroking his hair fondly.
Dallee giggled and ran her fingers in and out through her brother's smooth headfur. "I asked if you're ready to go inside the Leaky Cauldron."
Benjamin dropped the diamond necklace to hang around his neck, took his sister's paw in his own and pressed it gently to his cheek. "Of course, Dall! I was born ready!"
Dallee lightly caressed Benjamin's face with her fingers and kissed him on the forehead. "Come on, dear brother. Time to change your life!"
Paw-in-paw, the two mice entered into the Leaky Cauldron. They met their parents at the counter, who led them outside to the four-walled backyard.
"This is the fun part!" Dallee whispered in Benjamin's ear.
Darthian raised his wand and tapped a sequence of bricks on the wall, three up from the trash can and two across. The wall retracted into a small hole before opening up into a large and wide archway.
The mouse boy's eyes widened and rounded in voiceless awe.
"Benjamin!" his family announced. "Welcome to Diagon Alley!"
Benjamin took his first tentative steps into Diagon Alley. His jaw dropped and pulled into a thrilled smile. His face glowed and his eyes shone with unbelieving speechlessness. All that came from him were excited squeaks and breathless childlike laughs at the extraordinary sight appearing before him.
It was a cobblestoned shopping alley, quaint and downright old-fashioned, and yet inviting and enticing, a magical shopping paradise.
This was Benjamin's first time in Diagon Alley in the two years since Dallee started at Hogwarts. In the past, he would be left with the Fletchers in Worcestershire, while his parents took Dallee shopping. But he learned everything there was to know about the famous backstreet: all the shops and their names, the Wizarding currency, and its general layout.
Benjamin turned around mid-stride, his eyes flying in every direction and absorbing the looks of the various shops and stalls flanking left and right. The wonder never left his face or wavered for a second. His face was a countenance of shining exuberance, marveling, and the flying wholehearted passion of a childhood dream fulfilled.
He turned back around and trotted beside Dallee, his gaze still flitting every-which-way.
"Here, Ben." She passed him his list of supplies needed for Hogwarts.
Benjamin scratched his head in bewilderment. "We're going to buy all this using Wizarding money, right?"
"Don't you worry," Harriet smiled at him and pointed up at a towering snow-white multistoried marble structure located halfway down the street near a branching intersection. "We can get that in the safest place in all the wizarding world, Gringotts Bank!"
"Time to show Ben the family vault!" Darthian declared.
With elevated anticipation and a new spring in his step, Benjamin folded the list and stuffed it into the pocket of his trousers.
Gringotts Wizarding Bank
A set of burnished bronze doors revealed a materializing expansive gold and white hall. On either side of this hall stood large counters managed by peculiar creatures that Benjamin recognized as –
"Shrews, right, Dad?" Benjamin pointed at one on the left side studiously counting a stack of gold coins, whispering discreetly so as not to disturb its concentration.
"Aye, my boy." Darthian whispered back. "Right smart and sharp ones, at that. Never underestimate the intelligence of a Shrew."
They reached the end of the Main Hall and walked up to the tall obsidian podium, where a vaguely haggard and loose-haired, yet learned and highly wise old Shrew sat writing meticulously in a hard-leather-bound ledger wider than the podium itself.
"Excuse me." Darthian greeted the Shrew to get its attention. "We wish to make a withdrawal from our vault."
The haggard and loose-haired Shrew looked up blankly over the rims of his half-rimless silver reading glasses. "Name?"
"Suntail," Harriet informed him.
The Shrew placed his quill in his inkwell and leaned over the ledger to see better. His black eyes landed on Benjamin. "'E must be startin' 'is path t' 'Ogwarts, eh? Very well. I'll arrange fer a cart. Please wait 'ere."
When Benjamin joined the others in a magic mine cart, his first instinct was to hold on for dear life as it magically lurched forward and half-hurtled into the underground depths of Gringotts Bank on a winding series of specially-made metal tracks. He braced himself for the potential worst, tightly gripping the cart's safety railings.
For two more minutes, the cart rocketed at an unstoppable eleven miles per second, twisting and turning through numerous subterranean passages. But at its final sudden halt, Benjamin was thrown facefirst onto the floor of the stone cart, flat onto his stomach and palms.
Dallee laughed, helped her brother up, and led the way onto the stone platform to a circular bronze door flanked by stalagmites and stalactites. Above it carved into the stone wall was the number 191.
"That's ours, Ben!" Dallee told him.
"Wow!" Benjamin whispered in amazement.
"Stand back, please!" ordered the cart driver, who inserted a silver key into the vault door.
There were piles upon piles of coins inside. Benjamin gaped at them and watched as his parents collected pawfuls of them into leather purses.
Darthian took one of each coin and showed them to his son. "Do you know what these are, Ben?"
"Galleon, Sickle, and Knut!" Benjamin effortlessly identified the gold, silver, and bronze coins without a second's hesitation.
"Very good!" Darthian tossed the coins into his purse and ruffled Benjamin's hair. "We and the Fletchers have taught you well!"
The vault closed itself as they boarded back into the mine cart. Benjamin shut his eyes tight during the entirety of the return trip.
Still reeling from vertigo, he clumsily stumbled down the stairs onto the cobblestone streets. Harriet caught him in the nick of time. Instinctively, he pointed eastward.
"Flourish and Blotts is that way! That's where I'll buy my textbooks, Mum!"
"Exactly!" Harriet hugged her son and took him by the paw. "Let's get going. It's shopping time!"
The first thing Benjamin knew when entering Flourish and Blotts was nearly fainting at the enormous ceiling-to-floor stacks of wooden bookshelves like stones paved in leather. Thank Merlin that the dizziness from Gringotts wore off in that instant. Darthian helped him find his textbooks.
What magical spells lay in wait to be learned in The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1? He couldn't help but feel a sense of overwhelming boredom just from holding A History of Magic, and sincerely hoped that his childhood spent helping in the garden paid off when putting One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi into the bookbag. A copy of Newt Scamander's iconic Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them piqued his animal-loving fancy. A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration caused him to say a silent heartfelt prayer to never encounter the need to Transfigure himself.
As for Magical Theory, he agreed to use Dallee's old copy (even though it technically still did have her name written on the inside cover).
The father and son laughed at each other carrying a hefty stack of four books each. Darthian paid for them at the counter using the money from Gringotts. Benjamin flipped in fascination through Magical Drafts and Potions while waiting outside. Dallee came out with Harriet carrying her own set of eight books (how the infamous Monster Book of Monsters was included in the bunch, no one knew).
Benjamin had the grandest time standing on a platform being measured for his school robes at Madame Malkin's Robes for All Occasions next door. Simply wearing the black plain everyday work robes made him feel like a true professional wizard, talented at magic. It was barely like being fitted for casual Muggle clothes. The clothes fitted themselves to his eleven-year-old body and not a single pin grazed his fur (both a testament to the advancements of magic in the past eight years). He was astounded by an infinite tape measure that scaled his arms, legs, and head, aided by an authorized Undetectable Extension Charm. His father even offered to estimate his area of extremities, to immense relief.
When the fitters placed the pointed hat on his head, he burst into laughter at the giant body mirror. To think this was to be his daily outfit at Hogwarts! It only elevated his eagerness tenfold.
He flexed his fingers inside a pair of Dragon-Hide Gloves and swore to hear the faint roaring of dragons in his ears. The winter cloaks lined with fleece and fastened with silver would serve to keep him warm and cozy come the cooler months. The Suntails already owned plenty of lighter versions for spring and summer. To complete the set, Benjamin added a pack of first-year nametags for an additional ten Sickles.
Although plenty more shopping still needed to be done before the end of the day, Benjamin energetically proclaimed to be just getting started.
After Madame Malkin's, the Suntails passed by Eeylops Owl Emporium to buy a new bag of Owl Treats for Pocket. Both Benjamin and Dallee knew that Pocket had been adopted here no less than five years ago. Then they made a quick stop at Rosa Lee Teabag to restock on peppermint and chamomile tea powders.
They rewarded themselves with ice cream sundaes to combat the late summer heat at the popular Florean Fortescue's Parlour. Benjamin settled tiredly into his chair and savored a sweet spoonful of his favorite mint chocolate-flavored sundae with a banana and chopped almonds, sitting between Dallee and the Fletchers showing off their purchases.
Colton bought one of each team jersey from Quality Quidditch Supplies: the Hollyhead Harpies for his sister, Puddlemere United for Dallee, the Chudley Cannons for Benjamin, and of course, the Tutshill Tornados for himself.
Firiti and Dallee exchanged acne treatment potions from Madam Primpernelle's Beautifying Potions Shop. She also gave Benjamin a collection of spare quills, inkwells, and parchment from Scribbulus Writing Instruments.
Benjamin unpacked his shopping and laid it in his lap: a collapsible brass telescope from Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment for gazing at the night sky during Astronomy class, a set of glass phials and potion ingredients from Slug & Jigger's Apothecary, a Potage's-brand pewter cauldron, and of course, the textbooks and Madame Malkin's robes. He pulled his mint chocolate closer to him and explored the parlour.
Families filled every glass table in Fortescue's, feasting on ice cream and engaging in merry conversation. The ringing of the doorbell hanging above the door attracted his attention. His face pulled into a bright smile.
Faendan and Mulgrim waved happily at the Suntails and Fletchers. They went up to the counter and gave their orders, then borrowed chairs from an adjoining table and sat on either side of Benjamin.
"Ben," Mulgrim patted the youngest Suntail child on the shoulder. "Once again, we must ask your pardon for our lateness. We have some belated birthday gifts for you."
He produced a miniature Horologium encased in gold and silver from his briefcase, an astronomical clock. Mulgrim knew well of the mouse's passions for astronomy and art. The Horologium displayed the entire solar system on long brass hands and surrounding stars and constellations on the inner layer. The clock moved in precise coordination with the actual planets and celestial bodies in the cosmos that it represented. It also foretold likely times of solar and lunar eclipses and planetary alignments. A small pressable button lay on its underside to transform it into a regular analog clock to tell the time and automatically adjust to international time zones.
"I must give ye a word o' warnin, Ben." Mulgrim stared at Benjamin sternly over the glass rim of his pistachio ice cream. "Th' teachers at Hogwarts may not take kindly t' discoverin' this in yer possession. I'd advise ye not use it durin' yer Astronomy classes, do ye understan'? It must not fall into th' wrong paws. Keep it between yerself, yer sister, yer family, an' either myself o' Mr. Foragon at all times."
Benjamin held the Horologium close to his chest and nodded to the Wolf in full understanding.
Faendan gave something rather more esoteric: a circular bronze-cast copy of a Ministry badge with the name Benjamin emblazoned on the upper circumference and enchanted with an individualized Protean Charm.
"In your direst need," Faendan swallowed a bite of his dark chocolate. "You have but to rub your finger across the engraving of your name, and the mighty forces of the Ministry shall come to your aid. But it is to be reserved exclusively for when you are in a truly dangerous and life-threatening crisis. Wherever you are, whatever threatens you, we promise that the Ministry shall never fail you or your family."
After they'd finished their ice cream, the Aurors said their farewells, wished Benjamin good luck at Hogwarts and left Diagon Alley. Outside the Parlour, Harriet knelt to talk to her son.
"Benjamin. We have bought everything you need for Hogwarts. All except one. Do you know what that is?"
He knew without even needing to think about it, and named it with a tone of the utmost reverence.
He knew exactly where to go.
Ollivanders Wand Shop, Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 B.C.
The Ollivanders Wand Shop was a simple double-sided structure with shelves of wands all bundled together and packed to the ceiling, not dissimilarly to Flourish and Blotts. Benjamin felt the magic radiating inside and around the building. Yet standing alone in the middle of the foyer surrounded by the looming towers of wands, he hardly knew what to do and where to start.
A black-striped gray Badger sat at the high central counter, his fingers folded together in front of him and a cordial smile on his face.
"Benjamin Suntail," the Badger addressed the comparatively shorter mouse boy formally in a modulated royal voice befitting of his species. "Welcome. I've been expecting you."
Benjamin raised his eyebrows in surprise. "You…you have, sir? I've…been expected?"
"Oh, yes." The Badger stood up from his chair and smiled down at Benjamin. "It seems like yesterday when your sister was here buying her first wand, wasn't it?" He nodded at Dallee sitting in a chair with her parents at the front door.
"My name is Jan'Geer Ollivander," he introduced himself to Benjamin, turning and descending the stairs onto the floor. "I am the Wandkeeper of the sole wand shop in Diagon Alley."
"It's an honor to meet you, sir," Benjamin said out of sheer esteem for the revered wandmaker.
Jan'Geer pressed a respectful paw to his chest. "The honor is mine, Benjamin. This is such a momentous occasion. The last of the Suntail bloodline is, at last, buying their wand! You have received your Hogwarts letter, I assume?"
"Yes, sir," Benjamin answered with a confirming nod. "Four months ago."
"Fantastic." Jan'Geer swung around on his heels and began perusing the shelf to the right of the central counter.
"The pairing of a wand with its destined witch or wizard is an exciting magical process. The wand chooses the wizard, Benjamin. You do not select it; it selects you. Your parents' wands chose them, as did that of your sister. We do not know why this is the way of things, but it simply is so. That undeniable fact is well-known for those of us who have studied wandlore for uncountable years. Let's start with this one, shall we?"
Jan'Geer removed a rectangular burgundy-colored box from the middle of the shelf, rubbing its smooth cover and walking back to Benjamin.
"This wand calls to me, Benjamin, and it, in turn, calls to you. I'm sure I don't need to tell you the information you already know from being taught by your parents. I mean the properties of wands such as their various woods and magical cores, and so forth. Shall we see what is inside?"
He meticulously lifted the cover from the box and removed the first wand from its leather casing.
"Look at this. Isn't it beautiful, Benjamin?" Jan'Geer put the box on the counter and held the wand between his fingers. "This wand is made of ash wood. It measures 12 inches and possesses a core of unicorn tail hair." Jan'Geer waved the wand lightly through the air. "Oh, it's quite swishy." He offered the handle to Benjamin. "Could this be the wand for you? Hold it in your dominant paw, please."
Benjamin took the ash wand in his left paw. Jan'Geer scratched his grey muzzle thoughtfully.
"Let me see. What can I have you do? Ah!" He pointed up at a group of lanterns standing in a four-armed candelabra that hung just above the front door of the shop. "Do you see those lanterns there? I want you to point your wand and make them shine brightly like stars in the night sky. A simple flick of your wrist should do the trick. Whenever you're ready."
Gripping the wand firmly, Benjamin drew his wrist back and flicked it at the candelabra.
The lanterns flickered a chaotic pitiful white before shattering one by one and raining glass onto the floor of the shop.
Benjamin gasped and clapped his free paw to his mouth. "Sorry, Mr. Ollivander!"
To his surprise, Jan'Geer chuckled. "It is all right, Benjamin. That was no fault of yours, rest assured. Perhaps that wand is simply not meant for you, and you are not meant for it. Please return it to me."
Benjamin did so, and Jan'Geer promptly returned it to its box. He pulled an oak wood wand out from his robes and pointed it at the candelabra. The glass and lightbulbs floated up from the floor and fused back together, restoring the lanterns good as new.
"Well," Jan'Geer stowed his wand away in his robes. "That does not seem to be your destined wand. Do not despair, Benjamin. We will try another one. Oh, by the way, my wand likewise contains a core of unicorn tail hair. And yet, neither it nor that ash one chose you. No two wands are the same, you should know. You would not get the same magical results with another wizard or witch's wand as with your own. Anyway…"
He climbed the staircase to the upper floor of the shop, muttering to himself. Benjamin saw him stop on the right-most side and reach his paw out to summon a moving ladder from the corner of the room, climbing it to remove a silver box from another shelf.
"This one might be it." Jan'Geer dropped from the ladder and descended the stairs, opening the silver box and removing the wand. "Hornbeam, 15 inches, dragon heartstring. Pliant and simple. If I recall rightly, your sister's wand is made of hornbeam. Is that correct, Dallee?"
"Yes, Mr. Ollivander," Dallee confirmed and waved her hornbeam wand proudly.
Feeling a tad more confident, Benjamin took the other hornbeam wand and held it more delicately.
Jan'Geer drew his attention to a stack of boxes sitting on a chair at the top of the stairs. "Why don't you try making those boxes organize themselves back into their shelf? Yes, the one behind the chair, where the ladder stood before. Wave the wand in a sort of swirling motion, like a spiral."
Benjamin spun the wand in a spiral shape as directed. The stack of boxes rose a foot into the air and hovered for a short moment…before collapsing onto the chair in an overturned mess.
Jan'Geer sighed and shook his gray black-striped head. "Well, well. That one does not work, either, I'm afraid. Give it back to me, please." He placed the hornbeam wand away and closed the box.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Ollivander." Benjamin hung his head in a sincere apology. "Maybe I'm not meant to be a wizard."
"Please do not be worried, Benjamin." Jan'Geer knelt on the floor at the mouse's eye level, his eyes twinkling comfortingly. "You received your Hogwarts letter in the mail, and you have come to Diagon Alley to buy everything you need. Now you are here at my shop to acquire your first wand, watched by the anticipating eyes of your parents, aunt and uncle, cousins, and sister who found their wands before you. You are truly meant to be a wizard, Benjamin, even if you don't believe it at this time. But in time, you will. Belief will come with experience."
An orange box at the top of the stack fell off of the chair and landed flat onto its cover with a muffled thump.
"Sir," Dallee politely interjected and pointed upstairs. "Something fell off the chair."
"Oh?" Jan'Geer looked in that direction. "That orange box? What is it doing there?"
He gaped at Benjamin and furrowed his brow curiously.
Benjamin ascended the stairs after him and took the orange box. Jan'Geer helped him open it and removed a dark brown curled curved wand. Benjamin reached out; it almost gravitated to his paw.
The tip of the wand glowed a brilliant heavenly white. Glittering sparkling stars shot out of it and circled the young mouse in balletic fractal patterns. All the lamps in the shop suddenly lit up in shining royal orange hues, bathing the shop in a warm soothing and energizing aura.
Jan'Geer gasped in amazement. "That is…most peculiar."
Benjamin stared back in puzzlement. "What's peculiar, sir?"
Jan'Geer took the wand and examined it between his fingers. Its tip still glowed white. "This wand is made of alder wood, a highly unique and uncommon type of wood. It measures 13 inches, is slightly springy, and possesses a phoenix feather core. I remember the day I made this, Benjamin, many years ago long before you were born. Since that day, it has outright rejected a total of 99 wizards and witches. I've wondered why that was the case all these years. Perhaps, it has been waiting for the right wizard. Perhaps…it has been waiting for you."
"For me?" Benjamin stared at the wand, gobsmacked as the Badger returned it to him.
"Yes," Jan'Geer confirmed in an awed breathy voice. "At last we have the answer. Alder wood is unyielding, but its owner is no way stubborn. Rather, they are the most likable wizards, considerate and selflessly helpful. A wand crafted of alder wood desires a nature markedly diverse from its own. It will be unwaveringly loyal to you, Benjamin, and no other. Its greatest property is that it is magnificently adept at non-verbal spellcasting. You will learn about non-verbal spellwork in your Sixth Year at Hogwarts. Along the same lines, a phoenix feather is the quintessential core for an alder wand. I expect you to make your mark on the wizarding world, Benjamin. Take care of your wand, and it shall take care of you."
Benjamin nodded wordlessly. The wand's light faded into nothingness. Jan'Geer packed it back into its box.
"Thank you, Mr. Ollivander." Benjamin bowed gratefully to the Wandkeeper.
"Best of luck at Hogwarts School, Benjamin Suntail." Jan'Geer bowed back, smiling in satisfaction. "You have my blessing."